Friday, November 13, 2009

Union Till I Die: Which Side Are You On?

By El Luchador
The capitalists who run the International House of Soccer (MLS) have long treated the workers like 19th Century French coal miners. For some time now, El Luchador’s sources within the soccer labor movement have warned that negotiations have not gone well for the collective bargaining agreement that expires at the end of this year.

The Columbus Dispatch this morning sensationalizes the situation on its front page. (Read article here.)

Brother Shawn Mitchell writes:

Major League Soccer players will strike or be locked out next season unless collective-bargaining negotiations between their union and the league make a drastic improvement, sources with knowledge of negotiations said.

A collective-bargaining proposal made by the league last week was "very disappointing," said Crew goalkeeper William Hesmer.

Set aside for a moment that Ohio's Greatest Home Newspaper will only put soccer on the front page when it is a negative story about a labor dispute. (Just think if the Crew were building a casino).

The Major League Soccer Players Union was formed in April 2003 to promote the best interests of all MLS Players. The founding members of the Players Union’s Executive Board included Landon Donovan, Tim Howard, Chris Klein, Alexi Lalas and Ben Olsen. The Players Union serves as the exclusive collective bargaining representative for all current players in Major League Soccer.

League Pit Boss Don Garber strikes an optimistic tone in the Mitchell article, saying there is “plenty of time to finalize a new agreement … There will be many more meetings, many more discussions about a wide variety of issues.

El Luchador encourages his faithful followers to read the current collective bargaining agreement, which is available here.

You will see that it is structured to give the capitalists who control the means of production at the International House of Soccer the maximum ability to exploit the labor of the brave men who actually go out on the field and do the work.

Essentially, the American economic model for professional soccer is a form of 21st Century indentured servitude.

Union President Bob Foose and the players are working to alter the structure of MLS player contracts. The current agreement does not offer guaranteed contracts, or any form of free agency and entangles the players in one-way options that maximize the power of the teams over individual players. In most cases, players are forced to sign semi-guaranteed contracts, which allow the team bosses to cut players before July 1 without having to pay out their contracts.

This is highly exploitive of the lower level players, who are left with sweatshop wages and no measure of control over their careers. (Keep in mind, for example, that Steven Lenhart’s base salary this year was less than $34,000. That was a huge increase over his 2008 of $12,900.) For more on MLS salaries, read this article from the Luchametric archive.

After players are released, their teams retain their rights, which forces other teams to trade for those rights if they want to sign that player, thus making it very difficult for the players to negotiate and find a new home.

All the union wants is a collective bargaining agreement that abides by the same rules as the rest of the planet under FIFA.

As Crew Midfielder Brian Carroll told the Dispatch: “It's about rights more than money. But we want things to be fair. That's all anybody can ask for."

El Luchador stands behind his brothers in Black & Gold and across the MLS as they fight for economic justice.

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